Christmas is now well and truly over, and we all now begin to turn our attention towards the Dublin Racing Festival and of course, Cheltenham.
I had a rather frustrating Christmas, but I was delighted to get back in the winners enclosure on Tuesday with Westy Fox. He did it well and it was a brilliant bit of placing by Tom and Jim Dreaper as he was well handicapped on the day.
I'm very happy to report that Envoi Allen is in great form ahead of Punchestown this weekend. I saw a few people on Twitter saying they'd be worried about him giving away weight on heavy ground, but I wouldn't share those concerns at all.
He is brilliant on every type of going, he's a really natural jumper and I don't actually think there is a better horse in training at the minute. As readers of this column will know, I think he is an absolute machine.
Asterion Forlonge, if he does take his place, will be a good test as he was jumping well at Limerick just before he came down and is a very talented horse. Falls can easily happen to a novice and I'd be very quick to forgive that. Envoi Allen will have to give him plenty of weight on Sunday, but this wouldn't knock my confidence at all.
If I was Willie Mullins I'd be more worried about trying to match Envoi Allen's cruising speed and jumping than we are about giving away weight. Of course the form of Envoi's chases so far might not be amazing, but he can only beat what is in front of him and he has shown in every race in his career so far how brilliant he is, while holding an awful lot back.
We have no idea how good he actually is as he just finds everything so ridiculously easy.
I'm not worried about the ground at all, he's in great form at home as I said and I'm definitely not worried about giving away weight. Basically, I'm as confident as I always am in Envoi Allen!
Envoi Allen - simply sensational in the Drinmore Novice Chase @Fairyhouse! ⭐️ @BarOneRacing @gelliott_racing @jackkennedy15 #WeekendHighlights pic.twitter.com/3Bt2lpLwmj— Racing TV (@RacingTV) November 30, 2020
A few weeks have passed now and looking back it is fair to say that Christmas was very frustrating.
Pencilfulloflead went close in the Grade One at Limerick which was a great run, but overall very little fell right for me. As I said in this column I really fancied Farouk D'alene at Limerick and I was down to ride him on the Sunday, but that card was called off due to the weather and that pretty much summed it all up.
Farouk D'alene's race was then rescheduled at Limerick to the following day, but I was riding Ronald Pump in the 3 mile Grade One so I decided to go to Leopardstown. He ended up getting a stone bruise that morning and when that was realised it was too late for me to get back to Limerick. To add insult to injury, I also wasn't allowed to get back onto The Storyteller for the Grade One by the stewards as I was riding for a different trainer. The decision was of course correct by the rules, but I wasn't in the best of form after it.
It just all went wrong for me and it wasn't easy sitting in the jockey's room watching Farouk D'alene win at Limerick!
Farouk D'alene is a real stayer and bounces back for Grade 2 honours for @gelliott_racing at @LimerickRaces @jody_mcgarvey pic.twitter.com/3WC9uEJQ1r— Racing TV (@RacingTV) December 28, 2020
Of course, this is the life of a jockey and you just have to get over it. I really felt for Matthew Smith as his whole Christmas would have revolved around that race, but thankfully the horse is fine and we all live to fight another day. Ronald Pump is still a huge contender for the Stayers Hurdle and life goes on Thank God.
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It was plain to see that a lot of Gordon's horses did not run to their level over Christmas as well for whatever reason. This is frustrating when it happens, but that's life when you are dealing with animals. We can only hope that everyone is flying for the Dublin Racing Festival and Cheltenham. In racing you just have to move on.
Abacadabras ran no race, and while I would still hold questions over his ability at the highest level, he is definitely a lot better than that. I rode Coeur Sublime in that race and he disappointed us once again. As I said in the pre-Christmas column I was worried he would continue to not bring his homework to the track and that's exactly what happened. I was actually beside Sharjah two out and I was very happy, but he just stopped completely again. It's very annoying for everyone associated with the horse as he is just such a class act at home.
Presenting Percy showed very little in the Savills Chase which was definitely not his true running, and I was very disappointed with Samcro.
I know Samcro made a mistake, but he was emptying under me before that point. I was really happy early on with how he was jumping and travelling, but he just stopped again. He is just far too in-and-out now and there has to be huge question marks over him. Gordon and the team performed miracles to get him back to form for the festival last year, but you can't keep doing that every season. He will have to run well somewhere now before the festival to even be considered for the trip over in his current form.
One note on the Savills Chase though is that it was a brilliant race. The pace was really strong and the front three deserve massive credit for how they ran. The winner, A Plus Tard, was very good, but in my opinion Kemboy was the one to take out. Kemboy and Melon rather killed each other down the back and had Kemboy managed to get a bit of a breather at that point I think he would've won.
I saw people questioning the race afterwards as Minella Indo and Delta Work fell, but I can tell you having ridden in the race that it was a very strong renewal. Those front three will be contenders in all the big races in the Spring.
How impressed were you with Appreciate It’s victory at @LeopardstownRC today?— Racing TV (@RacingTV) December 27, 2020
He’s now a best-priced 3-1 for the 2021 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle! 👀 pic.twitter.com/8L3JAdzAaA
Ballyadam also disappointed and while he is much better than that, I'm not sure he would be good enough to get to Appreciate It anyway. The ground definitely didn't suit our lad and he wasn't at his best anyway, but there is fair question marks about him now. The form of his races simply might not be the best and it was worth noting that N'golo, who was 3rd behind him at Fairyhouse, was last in the same race.
I hope I'm wrong as he is a really quick horse, but he might just be a good horse and not up to the level of an Appreciate It who is simply very smart and the one to beat in the Supreme if they go that way.